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Ambiente Friendly new favourite for Irish Derby after English team opt for Curragh over Sandown’s Eclipse

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It’s without the hoped-for headline act but the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby’s support cast could yet deliver sufficient star quality to Ireland’s richest classic.

Coolmore’s decision to bypass the Curragh’s €1.25 million highlight later this month by switching their outstanding Epsom hero City Of Troy to Sandown’s Eclipse a week later was a blow to the Irish Derby’s cachet that might yet be compensated for in terms of competition.

Connections of the Epsom runner-up Ambiente Friendly have reverse-switched their attentions from Sandown to the Curragh and plan to avail of free entry into the Irish Derby.

A decision could also be taken later this week to allow a different Epsom classic winner — Dermot Weld’s Oaks heroine Ezeliya — to take on colts in her own backyard. The Aga Khan’s filly is another that gets free entry into the Irish Derby under the Curragh’s Win & You’re In scheme.

“She gets an entry into the Derby and all that has to be discussed later in the week, but no decision has yet been taken on her next race,” Weld said on Monday.

It is 30 years since the last filly to win the Irish Derby, Balanchine in 1994. Four years before that Salsabil also completed the Epsom Oaks-Irish Derby double. Tuesday tried to do the same two years ago but could finish only fourth to Westover. Fillies get a 3lb sex allowance from the colts.

With Ballydoyle’s Los Angeles, third at Epsom, already committed to the Curragh, the prospect of an ultra-competitive Irish Derby renewal will help make amends for the absence of City Of Troy.

Ambiente Friendly was quickly installed as a 5-4 favourite with some firms, supplanting Los Angeles at the top of most lists.

The James Fanshawe-trained colt isn’t entered in the Irish Derby but a €100,000 supplementary fee isn’t required to get him into the race. As part of the Curragh’s free entry scheme, the first four at Epsom get an automatic free entry.

Part owner Tim Gredley explained: “After the dust settled, we were very keen to keep him at a mile and a half and, as importantly, stay against his own age group. It was the only option really and I’m really looking forward to it and I think the race will suit him.

“We want to do what is right by the horse and the conditions of the Irish Derby seem a lot more favourable than going to the Eclipse.”

He confirmed that veteran jockey Rab Havlin, who replaced Callum Sheppard at Epsom, will keep the ride at the Curragh.

“They came and won our Derby and for the sport, it only seems fair to go and have a go over there. We think the gradients of the Curragh and conditions of the race will suit, so that is why we have made the decision to go. Rab will ride and we all had a good chat this morning. Mr Fanshawe and I also spoke to Rab and Freddie Tylicki (agent). We are all in unanimous agreement that we should go to Ireland,” Gredley added.

The move is a boost for the free entry scheme introduced to try to boost competition for a race perceived to have turned into something of an Aidan O’Brien benefit over more than two decades. He has won the Irish Derby 15 times, more than any other classic in his career.

Eight of his nine previous Epsom Derby winners proceeded to line up at the Curragh but City Of Troy is skipping the opportunity to become the 20th horse to complete the Derby double.

The Curragh’s boss, Brian Kavanagh, downplayed the impact of that on Monday and said: “It’s different horses for different situations and scenarios. If you look at the last number of years, we’ve had strong winners of the race, and I don’t see any reason why that would change this year either.

“With the timing of the race, it’s produced good winners in the last couple of years and we’d be confident it will be the same again.”

For his part, City of Troy is now odds-on with most firms for the Eclipse, a race won in the past by Derby winners Golden Horn, Sea The Stars and Nashwan.

Coolmore confirmed other running plans on Monday with a statement that included how their top US three-year-old Sierra Leone will target Saratoga’s Travers Stakes in August. That dirt race has been repeatedly referenced as a possible option to City Of Troy as well.

“Following discussions between the Coolmore partners and trainers Aidan O’Brien and Chad Brown, Los Angeles (Camelot) will take his place in the Irish Derby field on June 30th at the Curragh, where he will bid to emulate his sire in winning Ireland’s premier classic.

“Auguste Rodin (Deep Impact) will bid to notch up his sixth success at the highest level in the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. Kentucky Derby runner-up and Belmont Stakes third Sierra Leone will be aimed at the Group One Travers Stakes at Saratoga,” noted a Coolmore statement.

Tuesday’s Irish action is at Sligo where The Truant could maintain his 100 per cent course record in a handicap hurdle. Paul Flynn’s runner won his only race to date on the flat at Sligo in 2022 and ran a good race on the level at Navan last month.

First-time cheekpieces may help Hypersonic Missile also get his head in front in the following contest.

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